The prosecutors in their petition have argued that the app, which is owned by IBM, unfairly manipulated the innocent app users into tracking their location in lieu of giving them personalised weather updates and alerts.
"The company transmits the data to third parties, including advertising and marketing companies, the complaint said.", the Weather Channel App transferred users' geolocation data to at least a dozen third-party websites over the past 19 months", the complaint said.
City Attorney Michael Feuer said Friday that users of the popular app are misled to think their location data will only be used for personalized forecasts and alerts.
"We allege TWC elevates corporate profits over users' privacy, misleading them into allowing their movements to be tracked, 24/7", City Attorney Mike Feuer said. This could amount to millions of dollars given the potential number of Californians who may use The Weather Channel app.
Feuer is seeking $2,500 for each instance of a user being duped in this way, accusing the company of engaging in "unfair and fraudulent" practices.
"We brought this lawsuit because we allege that the app covertly mines the private data of its users, and then it sends that information to third parties, like advertisers, and others, " Feuer said during a news conference at City Hall East to discuss the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.
IBM bought the app along with the digital assets of The Weather Company in 2015 for $2 billion but did not acquire The Weather Channel seen on TV, which is owned by another company.
Feuer filed the lawsuit in response to a December report from The New York Times, which said mobile apps can get away with collecting your location data without offering much notice. Instead, according to the complaint, the app sells the data for ad-targeting purposes.
The lawsuit coming from Los Angeles is significant as well, and signals that the growing governmental and regulatory scrutiny into businesses' data-collection practices that gained momentum past year has not cooled in 2019 and will continue to affect how marketers think about their strategies.
As Feuer points out, the company is effectively tricking its users into turning on location services for the app, without disclosing precisely how that location information will be used.
Although the app uses The Weather Channel's name, the product itself is run by a subsidiary under IBM, which bought The Weather Company in 2016.
California is frequently noted for enacting strong consumer protection laws, including the recently passed California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which goes into effect next year and grants residents the right to ask businesses to not sell their data.